Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves today signed legislation that bans transgender woman and girls from competing in organized school sports according to their gender. The new law, known as the Mississippi Fairness Act, bases participation in organized school sports on biological sex rather than gender, and limits categories of teams to male, female, and coed. The new law also provides legal protection for institutions enacting the new law, while also providing standing in civil court for students and others who feel they were harmed by a violation of the law. The Mississippi Fairness Act is the first piece of transphobic legislation signed into law this year, although experts note over twenty other state legislatures are currently considering anti-trans bills. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted Monday that she was excited to sign a nearly identical bill "very soon."
“I never imagined dealing with this, but POTUS left us no choice,” Reeves, a Republican, tweeted after signing the bill into law earlier today. “One of his first acts was to sign an [executive order] encouraging transgenderism in children. So today, I proudly signed the Mississippi Fairness Act to ensure young girls are not forced to compete against biological males.”
Reaction to the signing was swift and fierce.
“Governor Reeves’ eagerness to become the face of the latest anti-transgender push is appalling, as he chooses fear and division over facts and science,” Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
“Governor Reeves knows this is not a problem in Mississippi and yet he insists on enthusiastically signing this bill to sow fear and division,” echoed Rob Gill, Mississippi state director for Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “By making this harmful bill the law in Mississippi, Governor Reeves is openly welcoming discrimination and putting the lives of transgender kids in danger.”
In response to losing both the presidency and control of Congress last November, Republicans have pivoted to the state legislatures to advance their transphobic agenda and keep their base satisfied in the process. Anti-transgender bills remain highly popular with key Republican constituencies and are seen as a key wedge issue in next year’s mid-term elections. At the federal level, disgraced former Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler last year introduced the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act” which would have placed similar bans on trans women and girls, but her defeat for reelection effectively killed the bill.
“The Trevor Project is here 24/7 to support transgender and nonbinary youth in Mississippi and across the country who feel attacked and hurt by these incredibly misguided policies,” said Sam Brinton, VP of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “Let’s be clear — discrimination on the basis of gender identity is illegal. We will continue to partner with the broad coalition fighting these bills in every statehouse and court necessary to ensure that trans youth everywhere have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”
The new law is set to take effect July 1 of this year, but lawsuits challenging the new law on constitutional ground are expected. Similar anti-trans legislation was signed into law in Idaho last year, but was immediately challenge in federal court. As a result of the challenge, it can not be enforced while the case goes before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.